Brazil’s FIFA World Cup this week will highlight both solar energy and ongoing energy poverty in many countries.
Four World Cup stadiums now have 5.4 MW of solar electricity capacity. These include: Belo Horizonte’s Estadio Mineirão (1.4 MW), Brasilia’s Estádio Nacional Mané Garrincha (2.5 MW), Pernambuco’s Itaipava Arena (1.4 MW), and Rio de Janeiro’s legendary Maracana (500 kW).
Despite Brazil’s recent advancements in solar energy, other World Cup competitors are not as lucky. British NGO Practical Action reported 11 competing countries only produce the equivalent or less than Brasilia’s stadium, highlighting the challenges of energy poverty.
Ghana, for example relies on fossil fuels for 85% of its energy use, while only 11% of its citizens have access to clean energy sources. Meanwhile, only 16% of Cameroon citizens can get clean energy.
Energy poverty remains one of the biggest challenges the world currently faces. The International Energy Association (IEA) notes 1.3 billion lack access to electricity while 2.6 billion don’t have clean cooking facilities. Most citizens are located in sub-Saharan Africa (95%) or rural developing Asia (84%).
Concerned, the United Nations has targeted specific goals in reaching a sustainable path towards reducing energy poverty by 2030. This includes having modern energy services for everyone, advancing renewables, and dropping global energy intensity by 40%.
Simon Trace, CEO of Practical Action, gives FIFA high marks in using solar energy in making the 2014 World Cup high on the sustainability depth charts, the “greenest” World Cup in history.
However, Trace is critical that not enough has been done. “It is absurd that there has been a greater investment into renewable energy for a single sporting event than in 11 of the countries competing in it.” Trace said.
While trying to address energy poverty remains a work in progress in many African countries competing in the World Cup, the region may see future hope. NPD Solarbuzz suggests that Africa and Middle East solar markets could grow as much as 50% by the end of 2014, and to 4.4 GW by 2018.
Here is hoping that, as the World Cup attracts soccer fans, the tournament will attract people to a new goal: gaining modern clean energy systems for all.